When that intro for Feel Like Dancing hit, screams would fill university venues. And Umoya was the national anthem for chills, hangouts and open boots in a park.
And of course, there was nothing that got the body moving like their Clap Song.
They were a one-of-a-kind hip hop group that had fans all over the country and to this day, when the name Skwatta Kamp is mentioned, ama 80s (as South Africans refers to them) might just lose their minds.
Their song Kwala boot from their debut album Khut en Joyn even called for the closure of car boots. It, instead, called for the opening of a fridge to “get busy” while acknowledging that “ke di BOB (Bring your own bottles), di bash, clubs, whatever, di tlala (they get packed) no matter the weather. Friday and Saturday nights, I’ll die for because I’m a Skwatta Kamp member now which means I can nay more.”
When they hit any stage, kwasuka loko izinja zigan’unwabo (it goes down, the dogs are extremely angry) – they are ready to shake up crowds.
The legendary squad is ready to bring back the heat to the Hip-Hop scene.
Walking into the set of their album shoot, one could tell that time may have passed but not much has changed. Laughter and warmth ruled over their lunchtime.
The last time Skwatta Kamp released an album was in 2009 with Fair and Skwear.
Acknowledging how long it has been, Sello ‘Nemza’ Mofokeng says, “It took long because as a collective we don't believe in external pressures, something has to be done because it feels good and it has to be done at the right time. You want to do something you're proud of so obviously there were hiccups along the way, Nish passed away so obviously you have to take time and reflect and then get back to the work, that's why it took as long as it did.”
Musawenkosi ‘Nish’ Molefe passed away in 2021 after testing positive for Covid-19. At the time, the new album was ready for release. Although Nish was alive to see the album complete, another member, Nkululeko ‘Flabba’ Habedi was unfortunately murdered by his girlfriend in 2015 before the production could begin.
Read More | Flabba’s killer Sindisiwe Manqele working her way to getting a second chance back in society
Being the first set of studio sessions without Flabba, the group members all echo that they did not feel different.
“We really felt his energy with us in studio you know, the same vibe was there so it felt like spiritually he’s definitely with us, so we feel confident about that. I don't think you feel like there’s really something missing, we embody his spirit,” says Lebo ‘Shugasmakx’ Mothibe.
For Refiloe ‘Relo’ Makhubo, the studio sessions were difficult, but she is grateful that “We feed off each other so when one is low, there's one person that will always pick you up and there's one person that will always tell you if your verse is weak.”
The Skwatta Kamp first lady adds that “We've got that fearlessness that Flabba had, like fear was not in his vocab you know, and I think that's the spirit that lived on amongst us in the group.”
Even in the absence of one of their members, the squad stayed true to their traditional sound of Hip-Hop despite the fact that times have changed.
Talking about finding relevance in the hip-hop industry that has changed over the years, Nkosana ‘Bozza’ Nkosi says, “The truth is, Skwatta Kamp as a group, we've always been the game, we have our own game, like we live in our own world when it comes to music, and we interpret things differently from other people. We are more realistic, and we are more honest you know and that on its own is the signature of the group.
“That's the beauty about making timeless music but once you put a price tag on the time to it, it changes everything.”
Echoing this, Nemza says that their music has always had longevity.
“I truly believe that longevity is a result of being true to yourself because you can't be tired of being yourself right, the trends come and go, issues come and go but if you do [stay true to yourself], you can never be tired of that, we can do this forever.”
In the same breath, the award-winning group was aware everything else around them as Nemza says, “We're not gonna make music that sounds like 1980s hip-hop because times have changed, we are living in the now [and] not in the past. But what I'm trying to say is that, from day one, we've never made music because of the time, we've always made music because of how it makes us feel in the moment.”
Shugasmakx, however, admits that the change in times is what they embraced in the album.
“When we were 18 or 15 and so forth, we were taking the wave of our generation and our teenage years and putting it out there, you know. Inasmuch as times have changed maybe [based] on the charts, bear in mind that we have a core audience that consumed our music from the beginning and they're not all dead, they're still here. [Now] we're fathers or husbands and things have changed and there are certain things that we won't say [as our younger selves would] and even if we can speak about similar things, they might be coming from a different perspective now so it's all growth.”
Since the last time they were on stage together, conversations around the death of Hip-Hop in the country have been going strong.
Without a care for this, Siya ‘Slikour’ Metane tells Drum that, “We come from a time where Hip-Hop wasn't even alive when we were making Hip-Hop. So, if they say Hip-Hop is dying, it's neither here nor there because when we started, there was no Hip-Hop, it was dead you know so the death of it right now is nothing in comparison to how dead it was when we started.”
Read More | Shugasmakx on doing TV work and the return of Skwatta Kamp
In Drum’s previous conversation with Shugasmakx, he said that the group had released two singles that did not do well, forcing the group to go back to the drawing board for their next project.
Elaborating on this, Shugasmakx says they did not go to the drawing board to relearn how to make music but rather to approach the release of their music. Over the past few weeks though, he realised that “This thing doesn't need external validation, I know that we are good and I'm good at making music. I know I am a good creative, I know I have something to offer [and] I don't need external validation, so I hope that we have enough people with the appetite to enjoy the product that we're offering.”
“When we went back to the drawing board, it was not questioning the production or the product itself or the quality of the product or the depth, it was just the marketing part of things,” Bozza adds.
Throughout their interview, Bozza, Nemza and Shugasmakx crack a few jokes here and there. Without much effort, they burst out in laughter, reminiscing on the good old days.
Bozza says this is the energy they share whenever they get together, no matter how long they stay without seeing each other. Given their individual growth outside of the group as solo artists, parents and spouses, the five musicians do not spend as much time as they used to when they were younger with less responsibilities.
But whenever they do get together, “This is how we celebrate Flabba, this is how we celebrate Nish, we just have this silliness in us.”
The new album – SVN – not only captures this but it also pays homage to the Skwatta Kamp that the 80s and 90s kids grew up listening to.
“[What] I loved about this album is that there's just so much spirituality and so much depth in terms of writing you know so it's a positive album. I won't lie it's a refreshing album you know people our age will probably adapt to it and resonate with it. It's a traveling-long-distance type of album, it's like Mkhukhu Funkshen 2.0 but I think people will enjoy the lightness of it, people will enjoy the love that's brought into it,” says Relo.
Of the 14 songs in the album, Relo points out the last song – There You Go – as the one closest to her heart because it was dedicated to Flabba.
“At the same time that Flabba died, I was going through the most with the passing of my sister so I think that song will always stay close to my heart because that chorus was me accepting the fact that he's gone, and we can't be angry at the fact that he's gone. God chose that time for him to go. Yes, he may not have gone in the way that we would have liked but who does? It's not easy, it can never be easy losing someone as close to us as he was so There You Go was like a soul search of a song for me because I had to dig deep. As simple as that chorus was, it was the most difficult thing to write for me.”
Complicated is the song for Bozza because it is a layer of the GBV conversation that the group initiated with their previous songs.
He says, “We've been making music that people weren't ready to hear and somehow they found it convenient for them to skip the song instead of dealing with the emotions because then ten years later, they ask [us about our stance on GBV whereas they’re] saying it [be]cause Flabba just got killed.”
If you want the nostalgic feeling; to go back to your house party days, Nemza recommends OG because it resembles Animal from Mkhukhu Funkshen.
For Slikour though, all the songs from the album are close to his heart in one way or the other. He shares with Drum that the songs make him think of Nish; “his passing and his involvement in like putting us into studio to do this album” so every song is special in that way. Because it was also the first album without Flabba, “it had to be done” because “we just need to honour our friend’s wish”.
They may be older now, but they have not grown out of their fun, yet deep wordplays and the mere naming of the album reflects that.
Even though people spell out the name SVN, it is actually pronounced as the number seven.
“We were ideally identified as the seven rappers including Flabba so we’re paying homage to the [initial] seven and the age restriction [that is] SVN [which means] sex, violence and nudity,” says Shugasmakx.
The album being the group’s seventh and hitting the shelves on 27 April are also connotations to SVN. Aewon Wolf, Assessa, Payseen, Junior, Max Hloba, Sketchy Bongo, Gemini Major and RJ Benjamin are the artists featured in the album.